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1500 Indian Farmers commited suicide because they could no longer pay off the debt they had incured by switching to GM crops
April 23, 2009, 2:44 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The situation in India and around the world should be an awakening to people that keep on saying GM crops are meant to help produce better yield and therefore help feed the world’s population.  Here is an article from AlterNet posted on April 16th 2009 that describes the situation. This is the exact reason why everyone should feel concern when companies try to push for GM crops based on false pretences when the reality shows us that the only thing we are sure about GM crops so far, is that they make a LOT of money for the companies creating them without delivering on any of their promises… Again: food for thought…


Posted on AlterNet on April 16th 2009

The headline has been hard to ignore. Across the world press, news media have announced that over 1,500 farmers in the Indian state of Chattisgarh committed suicide. The motive has been blamed on farmers being crippled by overwhelming debt in the face of crop failure.

The UK Independent reported:

The agricultural state of Chattisgarh was hit by falling water levels.

“The water level has gone down below 250 feet here. It used to be at 40 feet a few years ago,” Shatrughan Sahu, a villager in one of the districts, told Down To Earth magazine.

“Most of the farmers here are indebted and only God can save the ones who do not have a bore well.”

While many may have been shocked by these deaths, farmer suicides in India, and increasingly across the world, are not new.

In the last ten years, the problem has been reaching epidemic proportions. In one region of India alone 1,300 cotton farmers took their own lives in 2006, but the culprit cannot rest solely on a falling water table.

As the Independent article continues:

Bharatendu Prakash, from the Organic Farming Association of India, told the Press Association: “Farmers’ suicides are increasing due to a vicious circle created by money lenders. They lure farmers to take money but when the crops fail, they are left with no option other than death.”

But there’s more to the story than that. Farmer suicides can be attributed to, “something far more modern and sinister: genetically modified crops,” the UK’s Daily Mail reports.

Shankara, like millions of other Indian farmers, had been promised previously unheard of harvests and income if he switched from farming with traditional seeds to planting GM seeds instead.

Beguiled by the promise of future riches, he borrowed money in order to buy the GM seeds. But when the harvests failed, he was left with spiraling debts — and no income.

So Shankara became one of an estimated 125,000 farmers to take their own life as a result of the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops.

And no company has been as notorious in the business as the U.S. agra-giant Monsanto. As Nancy Scola explained in a piece for AlterNet:

Here’s the way it works in India. In the central region of Vidarbha, for example, Monsanto salesmen travel from village to village touting the tremendous, game-changing benefits of Bt cotton, Monsanto’s genetically modified seed sold in India under the Bollgard® label. The salesmen tell farmers of the amazing yields other Vidarbha growers have enjoyed while using their products, plastering villages with posters detailing “True Stories of Farmers Who Have Sown Bt Cotton.” Old-fashioned cotton seeds pale in comparison to Monsanto’s patented wonder seeds, say the salesmen, as much as an average old steer is humbled by a fine Jersey cow.

Part of the trick to Bt cotton’s remarkable promise, say the salesmen, is that Bollgard® was genetically engineered in the lab to contain bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium that the company claims drastically reduces the need for pesticides. When pesticides are needed, Bt cotton plants are Roundup® Ready — a Monsanto designation meaning that the plants can be drowned in the company’s signature herbicide, none the worse for wear. (Roundup® mercilessly kills nonengineered plants.)

Sounds great, right? The catch is that Bollgard® and Roundup® cost real money. And so Vidarbha’s farmers, somewhat desperate to grow the anemic profit margin that comes with raising cotton in that dry and dusty region, have rushed to both banks and local moneylenders to secure the cash needed to get on board with Monsanto. Of a $3,000 bank loan a Vidarbha farmer might take out, as much as half might go to purchasing a growing season’s worth of Bt seeds.

And the same goes the next season, and the next season after that. In traditional agricultural, farmers can recycle seeds from one harvest to plant the next, or swap seeds with their neighbors at little or no cost. But when it comes to engineered seeds like Bt cotton, Monsanto owns the tiny speck of intellectual property inside each hull, and thus controls the patent. And a farmer wishing to reuse seeds from a Monsanto plant must pay to relicense them from the company each and every growing season.

The cycle of debt continues into a downward spiral. And to be sure, water problems are adding to the crisis. In this most recent instance dam construction nearby was a significant contributor. While changes in water availability may be the jumping point for some farmers in India, it has been the globalization model of agriculture hyped by companies like Monsanto and Cargill that have led farmers to the cliff in the first place.

As renown physicist and anti-globalization activist Vandana Shiva (who has also fought against big dam construction) said in an interview with Democracy Now! in 2006:

A few weeks ago, I was in Punjab. 2,800 widows of farmer suicides who have lost their land, are having to bring up children as landless workers on others’ land. And yet, the system does not respond to it, because there’s only one response: get Monsanto out of the seed sector–they are part of this genocide — and ensure WTO rules are not bringing down the prices of agricultural produce in the United States, in Canada, in India, and allow trade to be honest. I don’t think we need to talk about free trade and fair trade. We need to talk about honest trade. Today’s trade system, especially in agriculture, is dishonest, and dishonesty has become a war against farmers. It’s become a genocide. The recent mass suicide in India should be a wake up call to the rest of the world. The industrial agriculture model is literally killing our farmers.


Germany Bars Genetically Modified Corn
April 16, 2009, 12:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Source: NYTimes on-line – APril 15th, 2009

Germany announced plans on Tuesday to ban the only genetically modified strain of corn grown in the European Union, dealing a new blow to the American manufacturer, Monsanto, and raising the specter of trade tensions with the United States.

The German agriculture minister, Ilse Aigner, said that the move was intended to protect the safety of consumers and the environment. But she underlined that it would not represent a blanket ban on genetically modified crops.

“My decision is not a political decision, it’s a decision based on the facts,” Ms. Aigner said. “I have come to the conclusion that there is a justifiable reason to believe that genetically modified maize of the type MON 810 presents a danger to the environment.”

Kari Matalone, a spokeswoman for Monsanto, said the corn — which is engineered to resist pests — had been approved for cultivation in Europe more than a decade ago and that no ill effects had been detected since then.

“We don’t really understand where this decision is coming from,” Ms. Matalone said.

Skepticism among consumers about the safety of genetically modified products and about their effect on the environment has made Europe one of the most difficult markets for Monsanto and for other makers of such crops.

A particular headache for biotechnology companies is that countries retain the right to impose their own bans on cultivation of products approved by the European Union, while they examine new scientific findings. It can take years for a company to force those governments to lift such bans.

The European Commission, the executive body, has been pushing member governments to ease rules on genetically modified crops to enable greater quantities of lower cost foods and animal feeds to be grown in Europe.

The commission has also been seeking to ease tensions with Argentina, Canada and the United States, where modified crops are grown.

Those countries won a lawsuit at the World Trade Organization in 2006 obliging the European Union to ease remaining bans on the import and cultivation of genetically modified products. The United States still could impose punitive duties on the Europeans for continuing to block trade.

Spain grows about 80,000 hectares of the genetically modified corn, the largest quantity in the European Union. Germany grows 3,000 hectares out of its total corn crop of about 2 million hectares, making the move to ban the crop in Germany highly symbolic.

The Czech Republic, Portugal and Poland are among countries still growing the crop, while France and Luxembourg are among countries to have recently imposed bans on cultivation.

The European Food Safety Authority currently is reviewing the Monsanto product because European Union consent to market the product has expired. Even so, E.U. rules allow the product to remain on the market during the authority’s assessment.

why aren’t more people upset about GE food labeling?
April 16, 2009, 3:08 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I don’t get it: maybe it is because I am a father and therefore I care more for my kids than for myself but why aren’t more people DEMANDING mandatory labeling of food containing Genetically Engineered food?

Some people will tell you that studies show that it is safe. Truth is: the studies that usually make that claim are sponsored by the very companies that manufacture GE food in the first place. It seems like every time an independent organization tries to conduct an independent survey on the impact of GE food on humans, they end up being shut down.

There was a great story on French TV a year or so ago about an Italian laboratory that started a scientific study on 300 rats: 150 of them were fed with non GE food and the other 150 were fed GE food. Two things happened in that story: 1) within 3 months, all the rats that were on the GE diet starting developing some rather serious illnesses (liver stomach problems, etc) while the other 150 were showing standard results. 2) a few weeks after their first results were made public, their public funding were stopped and they were forced to stop their study.

Bottom line is I cannot understand why not everyone is not outrage at the fact that a few corporations that manufacture and sell GE food are able to prevent food sold in our supermarkets from being labeled as such. There is no justification; none what so ever except for the fact that they know that a huge portion of the population (or at least the one that has had a chance to educate itself about this issue) would NEVER buy food that was labeled as using GE ingredients.

As a consumer, I make decision everyday about what I want to eat. We all know alcohol is not good for us but that does not prevent me from drinking my red wine. But that is my choice. I should be able to decide whether I want to eat and have my children eat food that has been genetically modified. The issue is that right now, I can usually not make that choice and that is a big problem for me. I should be able to decide whether I want (or can afford) a non genetically modified food. But today even if I want to make that choice, too many times I cannot make it because the law does not require US food manufacturers from labeling their products.

A few tips:

– the word “modified” in the composition of a product is a good indicator that GE food has been used, such as “modified Corn scratch”

– a few companies (like Whole foods or Trader Joe’s) have committed themselves to removing any GE modified food from their stores so it is safer to shop there

– buying organic or from local growers is not a 100% safe but certainly a LOT safe than buying blind.

At the end of the day, it is a question of education. We can pressure our representatives; we can educate ourselves. one thing that ultimately will make companies listen is boycotting their products and letting them know that as a consumer we do not want GE food in our plates. Because truly, the only thing that they care about is to sell their products. If we ain’t buying them, they will be more sensitive to our claim.

Food for thought (no pun intended).

Tell Congress to Support Labeling and Safety Testing of GE Foods!
April 9, 2009, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Great initiative from True Food Now to ask Congress to support two bills to 1) require mandatory labeling of all GE foods and 2) require mandatory, pre-market safety testing of GE foods.

The biggest issue for me about GE food is that no one today can tell us for sure whether GE food is either bad or good for us (while I think it is most likely not good is not even relevant here). Based on this simple fact that WE DO NOT KNOW, it seems surreal to me that we would not be careful and AT LEAST let consumers know whether products they buy include GE ingredients. As a consumer, I should be able to know whether the product I want to buy has GE ingredients in it. The fact that some companies and politicians loby aggresively to PREVENT such a label on food products, is for me a clear indication that they do not want us to know…

If like me you think it makes no sense to not allow such labelling on food products, there are a lot of things you can do:

1) Buy organic

2) buy from local growers

3) decide to no longer purchase products that have “modified …” as one of their ingredients

4) find a list of products and/or companies that use GE ingredients and make the decision to no longer buy their products (a lot easier than you think…)


4) You can sign a petition from the True Food Network directly from their web site right here.